Unpolished gems unearthed from spelunking expeditions through my mind.



As many of you may know, I pulled the short stick several years ago. No need to regurgitate the details, it was awful, dreadful, unthinkable circumstances. It was inexplicably unfair. Very few would disagree with the magnitude of unfairness heaped upon my plate as I sought desperately to exit the cruel buffet line that continued to dish it out. It was a vortex of emotional and financial destruction that I could not escape. My trust had been violated on so many fronts, there was barely a stable floorboard on which to stand as I battled just to stay vertical.

Adding insult to injury were the people who were supposed to be my friends, my support system, the ones who were in a position to do something about it, to testify in court, to fill out a deposition detailing the truth — but they didn’t. They were afraid and unwilling to stand up to the bully who had put me where I was. As witnesses to his wrath and mental instability, they feared retaliation.

In the end, the few who were brave enough to stand up and speak up were not enough to undo the wrongs. My already short stick was broken in half. Not fair — again.

So, fast forward through the years, tears, panic, and prayer and here is where I share how the Fairness Police came riding in on their white horses to right the wrongs, lock up the monster, and save the day, right?  Ummm, not so much.

Sorry Virginia, there may still be a Santa Claus, but there is not such thing as the Fairness Police. Seriously, you knew that already, right? It’s a very valuable  lesson — life isn’t fair. Chances are good that you will be dealt a bad hand more than once and not allowed to get up from the table.

So, what do you do about it? You move forward. You get up, get ready, get moving — one incremental step at a time in the direction of what is next. It doesn’t matter how right you are about how much you were wronged. In the end, it’s highly likely that you can do very little to change anything more than the direction to follow after you pick yourself up and dust off the shrapnel.  Let go of the hurt, betrayal and disappointment — don’t allow it all to weigh you down.

Trust me, I know of what I speak, and I know it isn’t easy advice to follow. At the same time, I know it is the right thing to do next.

No Fear

There are a handful of truly brilliant bloggers I read regularly. Today, Joel Runyon’s Two Part Guide To Doing Something Awesome popped up in my mailbox. I was not the least bit surprised to see that Part #1 was to do stuff that scares you, and that he referenced another of my faves, Steve Kamb (who actually says SH** instead of stuff). I have been doing a lot of things that scare me lately, things I didn’t think I had in me, that I never thought I could do. Nothing crazy like juggling chainsaws mind you, but running with scissors for sure — and it feels f***ing awesome (read the link, expletive required here).

In addition to this blog, I also just started writing two books. Since a single blog post takes anywhere from 20 minutes (Luck of The Irish) to 11 days (Ready To Fly), it could be a while until we need to call the printer on either of the novels. But in the midst of it all, what once intimidated me now sets me free. Writing is cheaper than therapy, and I enjoy it a great deal more.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that one of the books is all about fear. Specifically about overcoming it, confronting it, and recognizing the shackling effect it has on most of us. But it doesn’t have to. Lyrics from an Eagles’ song say it all, “…so often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key…”

Sadly, the fear of what people will think, that we will be alone, that something AWFUL will happen is so debilitating, we freeze and stop moving forward. I will never forget the reaction of an professional consultant as I was divulging some tender yet relevant details. It seemed safe enough, a phone conversation — if she laughed, judged, or otherwise ridiculed my situation, I’d never have to see her again, so I boldly shared. Her reaction shocked me, she applauded my bravery for being so open, for sharing the information and trusting her with it. I was stunned as she related similar situations, I was not alone, she too had similar experiences, and wouldn’t it be great of we could all just shake the facade of “everything is fine” and really help each other through the challenges we face. I continue to meet people who are open, share their stories, and learn that being vulnerable, being truly authentic about what life is serving up is incredibly liberating, not to mention necessary.

So back to fear, and fearing less. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about the hair standing up on the on the back of your neck kind of fear when you pass a dark alley — listen to that fear, follow your instinct and common sense in matters of personal safety. But the other kind of fear is different. Launch yourself past the voices that say you can’t do it, you’re not enough, etc. Look that fear in the face and call it the bully that it is. With that, I’m off to the pages of the book for a while. It’s a bit daunting at times, but I’m not afraid to write about it.

Delicious Ambiguity

“Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…” — Gilda Radner

Gilda Radner was an amazing human being. Not only was she hilarious, but she showed tremendous courage and strength in circumstances that would level most people. She seemed to just take things as they hit her and find joy and humor where others wallowed in sorrow and pity.

I strive to find that magic in everything, no matter how crazy fucking painful or obscure it might be. However, in spite of her quote being one of my most favorite, and one I take to heart, I constantly question the things dished my way via the omnipotent universe, wondering why. A friend (well, let’s just say someone who calls themself my friend but who very well might need a swift kick in the dictionary — but that’s a story for another day) accuses me of always trying to label things as good or bad, suggesting that there is something wrong with my quest for the why of things.

Just because we search for some rationality in the unpredictable chaos of daily existence does not mean we are necessarily left of center. When we analyze situations and use words like good or bad, isn’t it just the recognition of the yin and the yang of things, that there are elements of both in all things. Good is not always positive and bad is not always negative. Even something as devastating as cancer can leave behind a positive residue when viewed from a certain perspective.

Gilda Radner’s devastating ovarian cancer raised awareness of the disease so that millions of women have since benefitted from early diagnosis and survival. For many of us left without friends and family members due to the ravages of cancer, or those suffering alongside loved ones still fighting their battle, among the pain and the sadness there is also room for increased compassion and a realignment of life’s priorities. It hurts like hell, I know, but there is good among the bad, and sometimes answers among the questions.

Life is unpredictable, sometimes so much so that the urge to jump off has an overwhelming appeal. But then, you’d miss the next thing thrown at you which might just be amazing. There is only one ride on this roller coaster of delicious ambiguity. Questioning, analyzing, trying to sort out and prioritize all that is lobbed our way along the twists and turns is just part of our search for ways to keep on track without losing our minds. Being able to make the best of anything, to be brave and accepting that you just never know what’s going to begin, end, or reappear, is absolutely brilliant.

Life Is Like Swiss Cheese

So, I was thinking. In and of itself pretty normal as I think a lot, all the time, about almost everything. I think, rethink, overthink. I think, therefore I am, right? Ok, I digress.

On a recent thinking binge, it occurred to me that life is like Swiss cheese. Yes, a bit nutty perhaps (and sweet too as a matter of fact), but the description fits the flavor of both the cheese and life as well, so there it begins.

It’s whole as it is, but with holes in it that allow for some flow, for things to creep in, for no two wedges or slices to be exactly alike.

It can stink at times. It can even go bad– however you can usually just remove the bad parts and continue to enjoy it.

Swiss cheese can be enjoyed on its own, a solitary pleasure. However it’s enhanced by good relationships with things such as ham, rye, apples, and French onion soup.

So, meltdowns and all, life is indeed a bit like Swiss cheese. Some moments are just more delicious than others.

Rebranding Good, For It Is Not Greed

“What a mockery is made of the brief battle for possessions, that makes so short a life.”
— Virgil

Gordon Gekko was not correct. Greed is not good. There is a reason it is one of the seven deadly sins. Virgil was much closer to the truth. Much like lust and gluttony, it is a sin of excess for the few and, more often than not, a dearth of the essentials for the masses. Greed has crept into our society in the masks of status and power, not just material wealth. Greed, by definition, is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth. By course of action, it is what breaks down society into the haves and have-nots and may very well be our eventual undoing.

How does it serve us as a community when the minority possess the majority of wealth and the majority are struggling to feed their children, keep a roof over their head, to just stay alive. Yes, yes, I know there are those who are lazy, addicted, irresponsible and may very well deserve their lot in life. But really, the larger percentage of those in need work their asses off for a pittance. Many are in the positions they are BECAUSE of the wealthy minority greedhounds (Enron, GE, Ford, etc.). How do the uberwealthy justify their existence when children are living homeless in the streets, left to make choices between being hungry or selling their bodies so they have money to eat. How is that ok? It’s not, it’s a repulsive side effect of greed, of excess.

This has been a topic of ongoing conversation of late. I recently saw I Am, which if you have not yet seen, you need to for Tom Shadyac is a pioneer leading the way in the right direction. While I agree whole-heartedly about the content, the direction, the need — a question has nagged at me about HOW to push the requisite masses in that direction, to unclench their fists from the money, the power, the delusions of success wrapped in a noose of excess.

One of the early guideposts for me in this quest was a post by Jonathan Fields about Karma Capitalism. As I was reading his blog a few days ago, it occurred to me that while the post is ostensibly about business and branding, by the end I saw a parallel to what needs to change in the world. The core of the problem is that greed has been branded as good. It comes with a slick marketing machine that is self-fulfilling, an engorging media-fest.

The alternative does not come in packaging that is nearly as sexy.

Therein lies the crux of how to affect the masses, to possibly harness the majority who are secretly hoping for something better/different, who “get” that they are living a lie but who have not yet figured out how to get out of it. Rethinking, reengineering needs to be branded in a way that shows the sexy benefits (brotherhood, community, sustainability, living without the strain of the joneses mentality, etc.) so that it can compete with greed.

It is time to change the game, reverse the process. Much like civil rights movements in the past, it is a game of the haves vs. the have-nots. There might as well be segregated and clearly marked bathrooms and water fountains, the divide is so ubiquitous and so obviously enforced. How to change it, I am not sure of just yet. I suspect it will be slow-moving. The pennies in a can theory. I Am and things like it are good to start/encourage the thought process, but it will take more to have any kind of larger/faster effect. We need to believe that we can dismantle the cultural barriers that forestall reform such as apathy and denial.

So, Jonathan’s words at the end of his blog that nailed it for me were:

Uncertainty, properly harnessed, is manna for innovation.

Lean into it. Dance with it.

The challenge is to focus not on how to be incrementally better, but how to change the game.

It ain’t easy, but if you can pull it off, it’s worth it.

Just something to think about. And isn’t it about time we started to think differently?

Value and worth are subjective currency

So, I have been struggling with writer’s block for about a week. The irony here is that I have quite a few (well, 11 to be exact) posts sitting collecting dust here in the untamed brilliant nest. It’s getting crowded. And I’m feeling, well, like my value as a writer is a bit compromised because I cannot quite finish any of them. They all started quite brilliantly (if I do say so myself), but then stall out as I hear the question of their worth (or lack thereof) to a reader run laps around my brain.

Meanwhile, life has dealt a few extra cards my direction that have caused me to fold, to pull out of the game and collect my thoughts, hoping for a new deck before I can gamble a seat at the table again. Just not feeling like I have what it takes to play, to compete, to keep up sometimes. What do I really have to offer since so much has been stripped away from me?

And then sometimes gifts arrive — ones you go ask for, and the one that just shows up on your doorstep (or email) unexpectedly, but so much more needed that you even realized until you opened it. Last week friends listened. Today one spoke. She reminded me of a gift I had given her a while ago, that I did not even realize at the time would have such an impact or be worth much more than a fleeting comfort. But more than a year later, it has been re-gifted to me with recognition of its value along with some special brilliance that reminds me why life is always better than it may seem and that while we can always get through anything on our own, it is always better, worth more perhaps, with a friend to hold your hand on the journey. Friendship is one of the most valuable currencies there is.

Here is part of the gift I received today, and I’d like to share because it is so valuable, worth reading several times until it is the ticker tape that encircles any questions of self-worth you may ever have.

Gifts come in many different shapes and values. Love, kindness, forgiveness, and caring (for one’s self as well as others) are gifts that even a pauper can give freely in the present. Value comes from within although the world sometimes conspires to make us believe it is equivalent to money, material things, or the next bauble. Truly believing one’s inner value takes strength and care.

The only gifts that I have for you today (and really everyday) are my love, caring, and sharing one of the most important lessons of my life (look for the beauty and good in the smallest things in life around you). Some days that smallest thing is the best you will get but it is a wonderful reminder of the good and beauty in the world.

And then of course, there is a quote that is very dear to me that I share regularly, words of encouragement from Christopher Robin to Pooh Bear: “Promise me you’ll always remember that you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Brilliant. I may just dust off some of those unfinished bits this weekend.

No More Pigeons

Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue.

Really, just the two options?

I’ve seen that quote a number of times, meant to offer comfort at times when things just aren’t going your way, a means of encouragement to endure, to persevere. Good advice — suck it up, could be worse, blah, blah, blah…  BUT, it occurs to me, in my new rebel mindset, that there is at least one more role to be played that cuts the shit out altogether, and I like it MUCH better — I am going to be the sculptor.

Yep, I am SO done being the one who gets crapped on, I have never really had a desire to do it to anyone else — it feels so much better to build people up, to cultivate good relationships, meaningful conversation, hope, love, and wisdom. And so I aspire to be the sculptor who crafts the piece (otherwise known as my sense of self) which both inspires brilliance and impedes shit from sucking the joy out of life. And I am pretty sure it’s possible.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can hear you out there, you naysaying pigeons — it’s just not that easy or everyone would do it. Well, guess what, in my tour of reinvention I developed a bulletproof pigeon shield that deflects the bullshit. It’s made from equal parts of laughter, joy, and acceptance. Mix up a batch and see what brilliant thing you can sculpt for yourself.

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